Scotland spoiled Ireland's farewell to Croke Park and handed France the Six Nations title as they claimed a stunning 23-20 victory. A Dan Parks penalty two minutes from time from the left touchline gave the Scots their win of the tournament and ensured that regardless of what happened in last night's late game between France and England the French could not be caught for top spot.
Ireland had been hoping to pick up their fifth triple crown in seven years in their last game at Croke Park before they move to the Aviva Stadium, which has been built on the grounds of their former home, Lansdowne Road. But they came up against a spirited Scotland side who were worth their triumph as they attacked well and defended bravely in the latter stages, with Parks, the fly-half, finishing with 18 points.
They had opened the scoring as Parks kicked a sixth-minute penalty, but that lead proved shortlived when Brian O'Driscoll, the Ireland captain, scored his first try of the tournament four minutes later as he took a pass from fly-half Jonathan Sexton, and touched down by the posts, with Sexton adding the conversion. But Scotland, who have been better in this year's Six Nations than their results would suggest, showed they were not in Dublin just to make up the numbers as they re-took the lead through a superb try from Johnnie Beattie, their No 8, in the 13th minute. He picked up a pass from Graeme Morrison on the left flank and showed tremendous strength to touch down for the score despite having the attentions of three Irish defenders.
Parks missed the conversion but Scotland still had a narrow 8-7 lead, which they extended before the break through a penalty and a drop goal from Parks. Ireland needed a quick riposte after half-time, but they did not get it as Sexton pulled wide an early penalty opportunity and it was Scotland who extended their lead to 10 points as Parks landed his third penalty. Sexton cut the gap with a penalty, which was his last act before being replaced by Ronan O'Gara.
Parks missed a chance to extend the Scottish lead just before the hour-mark as he missed a penalty and that proved costly as Ireland drew level with 15 minutes to go. Tommy Bowe went over in the corner after a sweeping series of passes between the Irish backs, and O'Gara calmly landed the conversion from the touchline. Parks and O'Gara then traded penalties before the Scotsman had the last word to ensure his side avoid the wooden spoon, which now goes to Italy.